Cyclic Vomiting Syndrome Association

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Living on a spoon-budget

I’ve always been told how to budget my money, to make sure that I don’t spend everything right away and that I always make sure I have enough to coverer upcoming expenses.

Living like a spoonie works in the same way.

For my home economy, I use a budget app called YNAB ( www.youneedabudget.com ). Their 4 rule method is really useful, and I’ve noticed that these rules can be used on my energy-budget – or spoon-budget if you want (for those who knows the spoon theory: www.butyoudontlooksick.com ) as well.

Living with a chronic condition is, like most of you know, a real energy thief. There is only so much energy a person has – healthy or sick – and going on about your day, you can only hope that you have enough energy to cover all your tasks that day. For a healthy person, this is usually not a problem. But for a chronically ill person, this may be a daily struggle. Living your life as a healthy person, not having to worry about your energy burning out early in the day, is a true healthy-person-privilege. For the rest of us, we need to find a way to stretch our energy as best as we can.

Rule 1 in YNAB: Give every dollar spoon a job

Confidently spend your money spoons. You’re the boss. The drill sergeant. The maestro. When you earn money have spoons, you prioritize how you’ll use it, and then simply follow your plan.

This is what we call pacing in spoon-language. Don’t spend all your spoons in one place, make sure you save some for later. If energy is a shortage, it’s even more important to prioritize what’s important to spend your energy on, and what’s not worth your energy. But because there is so much you can spend your energy on, you will easily get lost if you haven’t already made up your mind about what is important or not.

  1. Watching your kid play theatre?
    [v] Important!
  2. Socializing with friends?
    [v] Important!
  3. Killing your back decorating the cake for your 1-year old’s birthday, who couldn’t care less how it looks, just to impress the other moms?
    [X] Not worth it!

I used to prioritize number 3. It often made me too fatigued to do number 2.

Now however, decorating the cake is important, because it’s now something I do with my daughter, and it now spells “Mother and daughter”-time rather than “pretending I’m good at something to impress others”-time. “Mother and daughter”-time is on my priority-list, “Pretending to impress” is not.

Another thing I don’t spend energy on anymore is always having matching socks. Tracking down socks the washing machine ate took so much energy from me, that I decided I didn’t care. And once I decided on that, I stopped wasting energy on it. Other people may think what they want about me and my odd socks, but caring what people think about me on trivial things like that, has also been put on the “things not to spend energy on”-list. It took a while before I was able to stop worrying about that, but I’m there now. 

Why it works?

A lot less stress. You’ve already made your (written or mental) list, so instead of stressing over every little (guilt-inducing) spoon-spending decision, you’re just following your list. And because you have made a conscious decision on what you want to prioritize and what you don’t prioritize, it’s easier to say no to things that will only steal your spoons and not give you anything back. It’s easier to avoid those energy-thieves because you identify them easier when  you are more aware that less important things steal energy from more important things, because you have actually through it through. Once you realize that getting a pat on the shoulder for a nicely decorated cake means that you won’t be able to watch your kid’s football game, it’s easy to let go of that cake.

Rule 2: Embrace your true expenses tasks

Take those large, less-frequent expenses tasks (that usually send you into a financial tailspin total spoon-deficiency-crash) and break them into manageable<strike, monthly “bills.”  tasks.

You know that Christmas is coming once a year, that you have birthdays to celebrate and that you have to make costumes for your kid’s theatre performance. Make a habit of doing what you can do early, and save as little as possible to the last minute.

  • Cakes can be baked weeks in advance and put in the freezer.
  • Gifts can be bought early. 
  • You can often prepare food weeks in advance, put it in the freezer, and just make the what has to be fresh at the last minute.

Why it works?

You’re looking ahead to those larger, less frequent tasks and breaking them up into smaller, manageable tasks. It also relieve you of mental stress that is a spoon-thief of its own, when you realize that with taking many small steps instead of one giant one, you can actually go through with what you want.

Rule 3: Roll with the punches

When you overspend in a budget category, just adjust. No guilt necessary. If you plan to take the kids to the beach but it’s pouring down rain, do you still go? Of course not! Circumstances change and plans change with them. Your (spoon-) budget is no different. If you overspend in one category, free up money spoons from another category and move along. Remember, you’re the boss!

So you underestimated how many spoons the trip to the mall would steal from you? Or your body just decided to be even more of a hassle than normal? Cut down on the least important tasks on your priority-list. 

So you couldn’t make dinner today? Order a pizza…. It’s okay.

Why it works?

Because you don’t have to be perfect! Once you realize that, you don’t have to stress over it anymore. 

Rule 4: age your money spoons

With the help of the other three rules, you’ll be more purposeful about your spending wasting your spoons, consistently spend less than you earn, and be more than prepared for the future. 

Following these rules will make your spoons stretch longer, so that the energy you do have, gets you further.

My daughter have theater practice 10 times during a two week period every January before they have their opening show. During those times I follow rule number one, and usually makes priorities like this:

  1. Feed my daughter and myself.
  2. Follow daughter to and from theater
  3. Be present and alert at her performance
  4. Follow up on her homework
  5. Making sure the cats are fed, and the dishes are done.
  6. Try not to let the house get any messier than it is.

Everything else is on the not-priority-list.

I know these intense weeks will come every January, so I follow rule number two, and breaks it down into smaller tasks.For instance, a few weeks before this starts, I will make sure to make more food than we eat at every dinner, and freeze down the left-over. So when January comes along, I can just microwave what i’ve already made, and I don’t spend any energy at all making food.

I know that nothing ever really goes by plan, so I am prepared to follow rule number 3 and roll with the punches. Keeping the house at the level of tidiness that it is now is probably the first thing to go, if I have to take things off the list. 

I might have to change my plan and call some other parents from the theater group to give the kid a lift if needed, and I will do this without feeling guilt, because I know it is needed to save spoons. 

I know that something will have to give – I just don’t know what yet, but when it does, that’s okay. Changing my plans, not being able to follow through exactly as planned used to make me sad and depressed, now I am prepared, and I have my eyes fixed at what is my true priority, I can handle it much better.

I have aged my spoons. The energy I had in December, when I made that food and put it in the freezer, made me able to pay attention to my daughter’s performance in January.

A/N: 

  1. I have no affiliation with YNAB
  2. Text written in bold are stolen directly from YNAB’s webpage
  3. I do have matching socks today
  4. Mismatching socks might be less about spoons and more about me being lazy…